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November 10 2007

You let our child watch what?!? A Wired blogger explains why he let his 10 year old watch Buffy Season One.

heck YES would i ever let my child watch buffy! there's far worse things they could be shown... of course, they would enter the world of television entertainment via sesame street and disney movies. but i see nothing wrong with letting a 10 year old watch btvs.

it started in 1997, when i was 15 (like the buffster) and myself and many of my friends followed it from there on in. we grew up with the characters and faced a lot of the problems they did along with them. the program shows, in may cases, both sides to an argument - which is, in my opinion, a very important part of fully understanding someone's stance on a subject.

i'm not sure where i'm going with this... it's 4 in the morning and i can't sleep. i also can't really keep a train of thought... point of the story: buffy = yes. i mean, = good. yes, it's good.

have a great weekend...
and to all the canucks out there - 'lest we forget'
I was allowed to watch it when it started, and I was 9 at the time.
My nephew was either 5 or 6 when he started watching Buffy and Angel with me and he loved every minute of it. Naturally it all depends on the individual child as to what is appropriate for them to watch and what is going to bother them but, from my personal experience, Buffy is fine for kids to watch.
I tend to agree with the thing about 'Nightmares'. It is one of the scarier episodes of Buffy, and I watched it when I was very young. I am 18 now, and so I would have been like... 9? Maybe? When I first saw it. The episodes of Buffy that scared me most were Nightmares, The Pack, and Killed By Death. Obviously they are all in season one and two, so I probably grew out of being scared soon after that.

I don't think I would let a child watch those three episodes especially, because they scared me so much when I was little. (I remember skipping those episodes on the DVDs if it was late at night because I didn't like to watch them just before I went to sleep).

The Pack isn't exactly scary, but I find how horrible Xander is to Willow very disturbing, in ways that a lot of other people don't seem to. I compare this to the scene in The Shining where Jack is walking down the stairs, and his wife is walking away from him, and he is just being so verbally abusive, and she obviously doesn't understand why. This kind of thing I found more scary and disturbing than any other scenes in that film, and it is much the same thing. Willow didn't get why Xander was being so abusive to her, and I don't think a child would get it instantly either.

[ edited by Vortigun on 2007-11-10 13:05 ]
I guess that kinda proves my point that what's right for one child may not be right for another, Vortigun, because Nightmares was always one of my nephew's favourite episodes. He used to repeatedly make me rewind (yep, this was back before I updated to DVD, hehe) the bit where Xander punches the clown out. Guess it doesn't matter what age you are when it comes to clown-hate. ;)

The only episode I remember him not liking initially was Ted and even that wasn't so bad when he saw that he was a robot. Strange that it took what he thought was a human bad guy to bother him but I would say that violence from a real person is actually something that kids really should fear over fictional monsters. Why waste time on fearing pretend demons when there are plenty of evil freaks in the world that are (supposedly) human to worry about?
I have 2 children aged 10 and 8. They have grown up watching Buffy, a little Angel, most of Firefly and have recently moved onto Heroes. Every episode they have seen has been watched with their parents and every episode watched by their parents first. There are episodes they haven't seen (Smashed, Wrecked and Seeing Red from Buffy and Heart of Gold from Firefly come to mind immediately, there are others). We talk about what they watch (both kids shows and the more adult ones they watch with us).

I am also a Cub Scout leader, dealing with a group of boys aged 8-10.5. The amount of times that I have heard them talking about shows such as Little Britain and South Park (those are the ones that spring to mind at the moment) that they watch in their rooms by themselves. This worries me far more than letting a child watch a show which has high morals and where good tends to win over evil.

I think it is far more important to know what your children are watching (and reading for that matter) and to provide an environment where they feel comfortable talking to adults about issues raised. I would also have far more issue with them watching shows such as Gray's Anatomy and Veronica Mars where they do not have the emotional maturity to understand the subject matter.

Hope my rant makes sense, it's kind of a strong subject for me!
I was 11 when Buffy first aired, but I also watched Poltergeist a lot when I was bout 5 or 6...
My daughter was 8 or 9 when I started watching Buffy, and I didn't let her watch it at that time--mostly because I thought it was too scary. Then one day, when she was about 11, she asked for a "Goosebumps" show from Netflix. We watched it together & she loved the vampires & zombies, and I said to myself, "Why should I let her watch this crap when she can watch something so much better?"
Now she is 13 & has watched most episodes of Buffy many times, although we still skip parts of season 6 & she chooses not to watch "Nightmares," "The Body," "Seeing Red" and some others that she thinks are too sad or too scary.
Buffy has supplied us with a wealth of allegory that we can use to talk about everyday life.

And I agree with the writer & with Keep_flyin that there are other, important things to watch out for besides sex & violence. One of the worst for me is that so many movies portray teenage girls as catty & shallow, in endless competition with each other. I'd much rather my daughter watch a show about a girl with true friends who is brave and good and full of love, even if she doesn't always make the right decisions. A girl who lives in a world where even the Cordelias mature into strong, caring wonderful women. Who then get possessed and try to destroy the world...But, you know, the principle holds.
I still don't watch The Body, because I generally descend into floods of tears in that episode... I have watched all other episodes many times, but I always skip The Body...
The amount of times that I have heard them talking about shows such as Little Britain and South Park (those are the ones that spring to mind at the moment) that they watch in their rooms by themselves.

Well, when I was that sort of age it was "The Young Ones" or "Not the Nine O'Clock News" we watched illicitly, kids are naturally attracted to a) stuff they probably wouldn't be allowed to watch and b) stuff their parents don't like/get. And "South Park", at least, consistently says don't automatically trust authority figures and that bigotry is dumb and nonsensical, good lessons both IMO ("Little Britain" seems to say "Repetition is hilarious" but maybe i'm just not the target demographic ;).

With parental vetting i've no issue with kids from about 8 watching Buffy, it's clever and includes plenty to discuss (personally i'd wait until about 14 or 15 to show S6 and 7, the Buffy/Spike psycho-sexual stuff would be way too much for most pre-teenage kids). Also, isn't being scared but safe the fun part of being a kid ? 'Doctor Who' wouldn't have been quite the same without spending parts of it behind my hand/cushion/couch ;).

(though I get 'Ted' and 'Nightmares' being more borderline - both episodes basically show child abuse and that's more disturbing/scary than any number of "safe", made-up monsters)
I can certainly understand where people are coming from with the "hey it's a show with a general M rating or PG13 depending on which region your in, but it's a guide and if your child understands that it's not real and that it's showing a depiction of life and how some people act i.e. resorting to violence or the standard way of school, it really isn't all that bad.

Also if the parent watches it with the kid and explains it as it goes, it's like reading a book or going to school someone is always going to say/do/not understand something and need to learn about it someday...
I come from a family that are big fans of all things horror. That being said, I've probably been watching horror movies since I was five, usually with my mother employing the tried-and-true method of dunking my head under the covers when things got too scary. My mom probably would have let me watch the first five seasons of Buffy without qualm. Where she would have taken umbrage was season six. I'm guessing I would have been at least ten or eleven before I got to watch something like that, and I wouldn't want my kids seeing such content until they'd reached a certain level of maturity. But you do have to take the individual child into account. While I watched horror movies with impunity for the most part, I know my nine-year-old cousin might have some trouble with them.
Yes, it certainly depends on the kid. I saw The Exorcist when I was 12 (in the theater), and I thought it was great fun. But it gave some of my friends nightmares for weeks. It could have been my lack of religious upbringing.
And of course, all the kids who weren't allowed to see the movie were busy passing around the book with certain pages dog-eared...

"Real" violence is another matter, though. When I was about 10, a friend's parents took us to a movie that showed women (generally in sexy clothes) being stalked and slashed by a masked murderer (who turned out to be a woman at the end). That one gave me the horrors for years.
Definitely agree about the "real" violence, jcs. The scariest movie I've ever seen was probably Hotel Rwanda. Gave me the jitters for hours afterwards. Things are a lot more frightening when you know they've really happened to someone.
I think most ten year olds are pretty mature and would have no trouble 'getting' Buffy without finding it too 'adult' or too scary. In fact I can't think of one ten year old I've ever known who I would have tried to keep away from it (or Firefly either for that matter).
I can't believe anyone would ever EVER skip "The Body". Greatest hour of television ever.
Good article, but of course I feel solidarity with this writer because I have always LIKED I Robot, You Jane.

I watched Buffy with my kids, but only when I had it on tape and could fast forward through certain parts. I would give them a synopsis of what happened, but with the appropriate censorship if need be.

I didn't want to expose them to certain elements, but I still wanted to share with them something that gave me so much pleasure.

For example that episode in Season Four where the creature had the vampire pinned up and was cutting him open, I never wanted to watch that again myself, no way was I exposing my kids to it.

I never let them watch in real time, I always taped it, so I knew what I wanted to skip.
Children who watch adult horror movies scare me. Children should not become inured to violence at a young age. We should not be used to it.
And Embers, I know a lot of 10 year olds for whom Buffy is too adult. They talk the good talk - especially in groups, but on their own, they are still so very young. And should be allowed to remain so.
Well, modern adult horror films anyway. I remember a fixture of spending weekends with my Granny was watching late-night televised double bills of the old Universal horror pictures ("The Wolf Man", "Frankenstein" etc.) and some of the less saucy Hammer films - absolutely loved it but even if people apparently used to leave the cinema or faint from fear when they were first released, they wouldn't faze many kids these days (or even in the 70s).

(stuff like "Hostel" on the other hand is IMO, completely inappropriate for most kids below about 14-15 and even then it's case by case)
my dad introduced me to the world of Buffy when I was about 11...so i can relate. but still, there were some episodes he wouldn't let me watch THEN ("Killed By Death", "Helpless" to name a couple) and for certain I wouldn't let a kid watch "The Body" or several episodes from season 6...but the earlier seasons I think are fairly harmless :) i turned out ok lol
My son, now nearly 10, has been watching Buffy with me since he was seven. With me is the key to this, as I am there to answer any questions that arise. New ones come up each time we make the rounds through the seven seasons, and these are usually based on his emotional growth at the time. He loves the show, and it's fun for us to have our "thing" in watching episodes together--usually while we fold laundry.

The horror never bothered him, but some the emotional issues have, so we have talked through them. He himself hides his eyes during the sexual issues! :) He understands and enjoys the humor, and I love that he's developing his sense of humor from what he see's in the terrific writing.

I've selectively shown him episodes of Angel, but we have yet to start on Firefly. He watches World War II movies/shows with his dad, and I think those are more serious to deal with because they are real life. Buffy is the fun stuff, which is exactly why I love it.
From the first time the BBC showed "Welcome to the Hellmouth" we watched Buffy as a family, usually with one child on a parental lap. My girls were ten and nearly eight at that point, which means they were significantly older before The Body or S6 came along - and we watched the BBC early-evening edited versions with them (and the late night uncut versions for ourselves in later seasons). We got the DVDs as soon as they came out in the UK. But it was always family viewing - both parents, both kids (and a frequent random visiting young teenager as well). We always talked with them about what we saw and it provided a wonderful springboard for discussion of some issues.

I can think of many, many worse things for kids to watch. I'd much rather they watched quality writing with their parents than vacuous teen stuff without. (Funny how it all comes back to the writing isn't it?)
My daughter was 10 at the time BTVS premiered. And although I watched it every week it was not until the summer after season two when they reaired both seasons I allowed her to watch it with me. It was only a little over a year's wait but I had to judge both her maturity and the show's content. And going from 10 to 11 also means going from elementary to middle school.

My decision was based on my child and is no way a guideline for other folks.
I understand the fun of sharing something you love with people you love, and also I agree that there are worse things that kids can watch... but a lot of the fun of well-written TV shows and books and movies is being able to relate to the characters. Something that I think, for most people, would have to be at least over puberty for Buffy. Not that they can't understand it, just that then they miss part of it.
A fifteen year-old worked hard to persuade me (a young adult) and other adult mentors in his life to watch BtVS. (He had begun his efforts when he was twelve.) He succeeded with me with a videotaped copy (don't do this at home, kids!) of OMWF and by making me promise that I (and a bunch of other adults) would watch *one* televised rerun of the show with him. It was "A New Man." I was hooked.

[ edited by shinygroovyj on 2007-11-10 20:50 ]
I started watching Buffy with my brother in its second season, when I was eight. I'm not sure what my point is, except that I think I ended up okay. My parents didn't know I was watching it (it wasn't a secret or anything, Buffy just happened to come on whenabouts they'd be cooking dinner), so I don't know how they'd have felt at the time if they knew I was watching it, though they've generally been pretty open to things like that.

I really have no idea where I intended this to go. I guess... well, considering I grew up watching Power Rangers--as, I'm guessing, a lot of kids do these days--I think Buffy's a good way to... I hesitate to say complement, because of the obvious quality difference. But when Power Rangers is basically an excuse for kids to watch action scenes for a half hour (to my recollection, anyway), Buffy's a good way to introduce more complexity into a small person's thinking.

And now I have landed firmly in the No-Sense-Making Zone.

EDIT: but a lot of the fun of well-written TV shows and books and movies is being able to relate to the characters. Something that I think, for most people, would have to be at least over puberty for Buffy. Not that they can't understand it, just that then they miss part of it.

And I agree here, I guess, but when you watch it as a kid and miss all that stuff, and come back at a more appropriate age and rewatch, I think you still enjoy all that stuff as much. I mean, it's always nice to understand something more than you used to because you've grown. I don't think it hurts, anyway, to start young.

[ edited by Jobo on 2007-11-10 20:57 ]
I didn't see Buffy until I was 27, and I watched the first season with my 8 year old niece, who had already seen 1-5 (her parents were holding off on 6, and I don't think 7 had aired yet). She's a bright kid, as are many. We should give them more credit.
I discovered a couple years ago that my little cousin had not only heard of Buffy but had seen bits of it. The scene she described was Xander getting his eye gouged out by Caleb. She would've been about 8 when that aired. That...is unfortunate. Heh. But she hasn't been scarred for life or anything.
I was about nine or so when the movie first came out on VHS, and my mom and dad continually rented it for me. However you (or even JOSS) see the it, I can tell you this: It was because of that movie that the concept of a strong female hero never seemed the least bit strange to me. So, it looks like at least SOME of Joss' original intent got through.

Anyhow, the point I'm moronically stumbling to make is that Buffy is good for anyone who can handle it. It's been a huge part of my life and I thank 'God' for that. There's no way on EARTH I'd keep my kids from watching it. I'd much sooner plop a kid down in front of Buffy than Yu-Gi-Oh or Pokemon. You can actually LEARN something from Buffy. I swear.
My daughter had a TV in her playroom and discovered Buffy by herself when she was six and she doesn't appear to ahve been bothered;admittedly she had her own copy of Jurassic Park when she was 3) She gave it up herself around the end of S-4. (Her only real restrictions were no adult cartoon shows like South Park, Beavis and Butthead, or The Simpsons, and no Eddie Murphy movies, including -at my wife's insistence, manily ebcause she didn't know what the movie was about and just noticed Murphy- The Golden Child.)

The fact is, alot of really old horror movies are very innapropriate for children. The fact is, small children aren't equipped to follow the plots of films like Macabre, Night of Terror, BLood of Dracula and they can be very upsetting. And Blood amd Lace is just plain sordid.
I'd let a ten year old watch BtVS but I'd introduce the series to them slowly.

One of my best friends started watching the show when she was nine years old, I was about twelve when I first viewed the show and younger than that when I saw the film.
It's weird what scares kids. The only kid I'm around on a regular basis is my 8-year-old nephew, and I can never know how he'll react to things. He's absolutely terrified of ET and the Green Goblin, but then Doc Ock (who's origin scene in the hospital scared the crap out of me when I first saw it) doesn't bother him at all. Then we watch Return of the Jedi, and the snow beast gives him nightmares. What gives?

I've noticed he tends to react based on how I do. Like if I give some indication that a scary scene is coming up (even in jest or to tease him), chances are he'll get scared. But if I look over at him with a bemused look, he'll laugh and mock whatever is on screen.

I don't really see why there would be anything in Buffy or Angel that would be inappropriate for kids. Sex stuff tends to either go over their heads or just come off as funny/embarrassing. I'm definitely looking forward to the day I get to watch all the Whedon shows with my kids.
'The Body' is tricky for me. I think it depends on the life of the viewer. I watched it for the first time and thought it was so well written and incredibly sad, but two years later my father died and now it is unwatchable, far too real.
This was definitely an interesting read- I'm 19 and am twelve years older than my youngest sibling, so I have the great privilege of introducing her to all the stuff I've come to love. It really does depend on the kid in question- she loves Doctor Who, but I still pick and choose the episodes that she'll be okay with. (I wouldn't dream of showing her "Blink" or "The Empty Child". She loved "The Girl in the Fireplace" though- it would have been a crime not to show her something written by Steven Moffat) But the thing I most look forward to introducing her to is Buffy. She will love the characters, the stories, and the monsters, in a few years time. Right now we enjoy our Doctor Who, and our Stargate, and our Star Trek together. For now I know she's getting her female influences from Samantha Carter, Dr. Weir, Rose Tyler, Martha Jones, and Captain Janeway. It's certainly better than handing her a Bratz doll or being bombarded with crap like I was with The Spice Girls at around her age.
I was twelve years old when I started watching Buffy in 1998, and personally I think that is a great age to introduce a child to the series. It worked great for me! I think a lot of the show would fly over the heads of younger viewers, and it shouldn't! If there's one thing that I know about Buffy, it's a nuanced show, not just an action extravaganza with scary monsters, and I would like the first time my (future, imaginary) kids see it to be meaningful. I screened an episode for my cousin, who is about 9, and she didn't really get it. I personally think the early story lines of rebelling against parents and authority, strong friendships, and emerging sexuality would resonate more with a 12-13 year old. But I guess it depends on the individual child, and where they are at those ages. I was a young 10 and my cousin is a young 9. I don't think I would have been ready to really get it at 10. I wasn't thinking so much about boys and high school as much as dolls and horses. I think the start of middle school (which is when I started watching) is the perfect time.

Not that I would look down on someone who introduces it earlier, because I don't think it's damaging. Just I wonder at the ability of the child to truly enjoy it as much as they would later on.

I have put so much thought into this that I've decided I won't introduce my children to Buffy at all, in fact I will forbid them to watch it, and then let my best friend (who will be like the cool aunt) show it to them "on the sly." You know, to make it that much more exciting! And even more cool because I don't like it! Yeah, I've put way too much thought into this.
I used to have a boy in my 4th grade class who, like me, was a Buffy fanatic. His parents knew from an early age that he was 'different' and encouraged him to be himself. He had Buffy pencils, bookcovers, watches and would bring in his figures to play with at lunchtime.

We would sit down at recess and discuss the episode from the night before, really getting into themes and character arcs. The hardest one was 'Where the Wild Things Are' as I felt that the use of sex was gratuitous. Which I said to him. Being a typical nine year old, he just shook it off and was more interested in the ghost in the bathtub!

He's now 15 and remains in touch and is probably my favorite pupil ever. He is popular, proudly 'different' and comfortable with himself and his sexuality. And he still loves his Buffy.

My point being, some kids not only CAN handle it, it can change their life for the better.
FaithsTruCalling I appreciate that it is brilliant television, but it seriously makes me cry and cry every time I watch it. What makes it good is that it makes me cry, that's also what makes me not want to watch it.
Slacker mom that I am, my kids have been watching Buffy since they were very young. My daughter was 3 when Buffy first aired; I wouldn't let her watch the parts where vampires got dusted because I thought it would scare her. After a couple of episodes, she told me she wanted to watch it, to see what happened. I let her. She turned to me afterwards and said matter-of-factly, "So, now I know".

The only episode which really bothered her was The Gift; she sobbed herself to sleep afterwards. It was something about the sibling sacrifice, I think. She also sobbed uncontrolably during the first Rugrats movie, when Tommy says he doesn't want to be Dil's brother any more, so go figure.
I introduced my nine-year old niece to Buffy by making her and her dad watch Once More With Feeling with me on my birthday. They became instant fans and have watched most of the series. He watches the episodes first, decides if there's any she shouldn't watch, and tells her what scenes to close her eyes in or which ones to skip.

He's gotten bogged down with the Troika (he's not a fan) and they switched to The X-Files. She's the same age my youngest was when she and her brother would cuddle up with me and watch Mulder and Scully, while their dad would go in the other room because it was too scary.

My daughter's gone into film work. For a first year project she did a short film about an abused daughter who kills her father, and she was very happy with the fake blood she made. She used the leftovers on her pancakes.

She and her brother introduced me to Buffy.

You've got to know your kids.
Seriously? I had free reign of the tv from a young age and that's never affected me much. I think the scariest thing I've seen on TV was Edward Scissorhands and that's because i was scared of the scissors. as long as the kid know that it's make believe and a the violence shouldn't be brought to school what's the problem? Sure they grow up a little bit sooner than we'd like, but more and more that's becoming an advantage in this world.
My kids grew up on "Buffy." My youngest are now 14, and are brilliant at determining metaphors, story structure, analyzing the theme of a story, etc. They learned these skills from watching Joss's shows, and it has given them advantages in school that most of their classmates don't have. While some of my kids were afriad of "Poltergeist" and "X-Files," none of them were ever afraid of a single episode of "Buffy."
I grew up watching 50's and 60's horror films on TV with my sisters, and what would terrify one of my sisters never bothered the other two of us. It's so completely case by case - you have to know your kid.

My parents gave us practically free rein on the TV - the only show we were forbidden to watch was "The Three Stooges" - so naturally, we got up early and sneak-watched it. Don't think it did us any harm - my parents thought we were so impressionable that we would smack each other over the head like Moe, and then believe we could do it without lasting harm to each other. *snort*

We watched everything my parents watched at every age, and the only issue was the dreaded "bedtime" - not the content. I learned a lot about the adult world by asking my folks (endless) questions about what I saw, and I think it did me a world of good. It didn't seem to cause a TV addiction either, as I didn't watch TV for about twelve years of my adult life.

What really wrecked me was watching The Pawnbroker on the tube. I was about twelve or so, and it destroyed me. I cried for hours, and many years later my parents told me they felt really awful about letting me watch it. I'd read a little about the Holocaust, and had a minimal exposure to it in school, but this was visceral and emotional and so disturbing.

However, I don't think it was a bad thing - it was actually an eye-opening and seminal life-experience. It triggered my empathy for people suffering from bigotry and prejudice, and helped start me on a life of social and political activism.

So you never know what you can kick-off by letting your children watch the right movie or TV show...

ET: fix typo.

[ edited by QuoterGal on 2007-11-12 06:46 ]
I watched the very first episode and have never looked back, I was 7 at the time and am now 18. As a kid I was never scared of the show, and my parents let me watch whatever I wanted and I don't think it is harmed me in any shape or form. I personally didn't pick up on the metaphors and great characterisation, and didn't understand some of the more adult jokes and references until I grew up, but was content with watching the show for a kick ass hot women who killed kick ass lookin monsters. As you grow older you see things you didn't before, if anything I think it enriches the viewing experience rather than ruining it in any way.

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